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¡Adios, Arcadia! Next semester I will be crossing off yet another item on my never-ending bucket list and studying abroad in Valparaiso, Chile. Valpo, as the locals call it, is a coastal city an hour north of Santiago. That’s right, I’ll get to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life!
Chile is somewhere that I’ve been interested in since I was in high school. The mixture of busy cities, sunny beaches, the Andes mountains, and Easter Island is just about every traveler’s paradise. But life always ends up taking you on unexpected adventures, and after high school I chose to spend a year in Brazil instead, pushing Chile to the back of my mind. Living in Brazil caused me to fall in love with South America in a completely new way. I met the most open and caring people I have ever known and visited places with indescribable beauty. Learning Portuguese was definitely something that was never on my bucket list, but is now such a big part of my life that I can’t imagine myself without it.
When I started freshman year at Arcadia, I already had my four-year plan set up. It included an internship or two and a semester in Spain to complete my Spanish minor. But again, life threw me a curveball and I ended up in London through the FYSAE program. Spending a semester in Europe was amazing, but by the time applying for the Spain program came around, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Something kept pulling me back to South America. Seeing the Chile program on Arcadia’s website reminded me of my initial curiosity, and in that moment I knew what I had to do.
Sometimes (in fact, most of the time) life doesn’t go the way you plan it— and that’s okay. When people tell you that college is all about trying new experiences and keeping an open mind, believe them. There are opportunities everywhere and all you need to do is look!
But Arcadia offers so many study-abroad programs that choosing one can be daunting. The most important thing is to really think about what you want to get out of your program. Here are some questions to ask yourself while deciding where in the world to study abroad.
I’m looking forward to returning to South America.
1. Want to achieve fluency in a language? If so, you might want to consider one of Arcadia’s language immersion programs. I chose Chile to improve my Spanish, but Arcadia also offers programs in Cuba, Italy, and Spain.
2. Which courses do you need to take before graduating? Looking at your requirements can help keep you on track to graduate, because some programs have more courses to offer depending on the major. Many business majors opt for the Barcelona program in Spain, where students can study at ESCI-UPF, the world-renowned International Business school. As an International Studies major, I need to take courses centered on political and international issues. By taking them in Spanish, I can check off classes for both my major and minor at the same time.
3. What kind of area do you want to live in? If you are looking for a big city, the London program is your best bet. But for those who want to experience rural life, Arcadia has programs in areas such as Ballyvaughan, Ireland, and Lincoln, New Zealand. If you are like me and prefer something in the middle, consider studying in Valparaiso, Chile, which has a population of about 250,000.
4. What type of housing do you prefer? Some programs, such as the University of Stirling in Scotland, let you live in dorms on campus, while Australia offers independent apartments. If you are trying to learn a new language though, I highly recommend that you stay with a host family, which is something I chose to do in order to have the most authentic experience possible and Spanish immersion.
5. When do you want to study abroad? You may need to stay on campus in the fall to take a certain course, and that leaves you with studying abroad in the Spring. Consider the weather in the area that you are going to. If you are going to the Southern hemisphere, don’t forget that the seasons are flip-flopped.
My last advice to you is to follow your gut. You know yourself better than anyone else. Where can you see yourself?